Monday, October 8, 2012
A different sun
In the days when Mount Road was bordered on its west by the Long Tank, there were a few spots where a lay-by was available for the troops marching from Fort St George out to Cenotaph Road or beyond. One such was in Teynampet; where there today are a lot of timber supply stores, just along the Gemini flyover, were once farriers plying their trade. Movie theatres were not even in their imagination in those days...
... cut to the 1930s. Enraptured by the magic of the movies, Sundarrao Naidu builds his cinema where farriers once shod horses. He didn't have to look too far to name his theatre; the first three letters of his name were good enough. And so Sun Theatre came into the movie business in 1941. With the war years on, Sundarrao Naidu opened his theatre to not just movies, but also other performances, which were primarily aimed at generating funds for the War Relief Fund. One of the most well attended performance was that of the stage version of 'Pavazhakodi'. MK Thayagaraja Bhagavathar, who had played the lead in the film a decade earlier, returned to that role on stage.
Sun Theatre was probably one of many ventures that Sundarrao was involved in, for he was always an active participant in public life. He was the mayor of Madras when India became independent, in 1947. Though Sundarrao died in 1949, Sun Theatre continued into the early 90s. During that lean phase for the movie industry, the theatre was closed and this commercial complex came up in its place. The Sun brand name - included in the bus stop and directions to almost all establishments nearby - was quite unique for a long while and continues to hold an independent identity even today.
A side note: Sundarrao's brother, Venugopal took a cue from his brother, and when he built his own theatre, it was called Venus. No, not as a rock around the sun, but by dropping the apostrophe from Venu's!